CEDARBURG — From newborns to teens, pediatrician Dan Hagerman has seen more than 10,000 children at Cedar Mills Medical Group in Cedarburg in his 28 years.
And while he loved the job for the positive energy children bring, it wasn’t always easy. He has been beaten, urinated, vomited and worse while treating children, some were afraid to go to the doctor.
But he discovered how to get creative, including learning to juggle — well.
“One of the good things about juggling for kids is that they like it more when you drop the balls, which was lucky because I was never really that great of a juggler,” Hagerman said.
Other times, he has crawled under chairs or the exam table to make contact with an anxious child.
“I remember visiting a teenager with severe mental health problems who refused to come to the clinic,” Hagerman said. “I went to talk to him in his car in the parking lot because he really needed help.”
Hagerman hung up his white coat and stethoscope earlier this month because, he said, life is too short to spend it working.
Born in Ohio, his family moved to Detroit when he was 6 and then to Brookfield when he was 10.
An interest in science and a gift for dealing with people led Hagerman to pursue a medical career. He received his medical degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1989 and developed an interest in pediatrics during his rotations.
“Pediatricians seemed happier and more positive. I was lucky enough to have some amazing role models in pediatrics,” he said. “Ultimately, there’s only one real reason to be a pediatrician — wanting to work with and help children and their families.”
Hagerman completed his residency at UW Hospitals and Clinics, serving as chief pediatrician.
In 1993, he joined what would become his permanent professional home, the Cedar Mills Medical Group in Cedarburg, a branch of Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital. From 2003 to 2018, he was co-medical director of Cedar Mills.
Hagerman said working with children of different ages is a unique challenge. The interactions are all very different depending on who he sees, be it a newborn, toddler, young child, teenager or young adult.
Some days were especially tough when Hagerman had to give disturbing or scary information to parents and children.
“I always felt like if I could make it a little less scary or painful, I was helping them,” he said.
Hagerman estimates that he has had more than 100,000 visits with children in total.
Among them were the children of Jennifer Martone. She called him an incredible man who educated, showed empathy and interacted personally with all the parents who struggled with their sick children.
“One moment that stands out for me is when my daughter, who had chronic ear infections, woke up at night, cried and said, ‘I just want Dr. Dan to fix me,'” she said. “And he always did.”
Another parent, Dave Burkart, said Hagerman gave him his cell number in case he ever had a problem.
“He was always very thorough and thoughtful,” Burkart said. “We had a problem and he even gave me his cell number so I could text him. He will be missed and hard to replace.”
Hagerman not only gave out his cell number, he conducted house calls and even had patients come to his house at night and on weekends, when needed.
“I’ve even given some kids antibiotics in the middle of the night for pneumonia or steroids for croup,” he said.
Even Hagerman’s own mother, Marilyn, who is understandably biased, said she couldn’t get very far in Cedarburg before hearing of a parent praising her son. She said she and her husband moved from Door County to Cedarburg about 10 years after their son started working at Cedar Mills.
“It was only a matter of weeks when people would repeatedly ask us if we were related to Dr. Hagerman. When we said we were his parents, we heard over and over that he was their pediatrician or from people more our age that he was a pediatrician for their grandchildren,” said Marilyn Hagerman. “Then the praise would begin. It seemed to us that he had almost every child in Cedarburg and that he was universally loved.”
Dan Hagerman said the biggest change in his nearly 30 years in pediatrics has been the numerous vaccines that have come out, by far the greatest success story of modern medicine, he said.
“Several of the most dreaded diseases from my residency have been largely eliminated. Bacterial meningitis has become extremely rare and bacterial pneumonia has decreased significantly,” he said. “Influenza rates and hospitalizations are much lower. Hospitalizations for Rotavirus dehydration have essentially disappeared. The number of ear infections has dropped dramatically.”
The internet has been a blessing as well as a curse, he said.
“COVID has clearly made very difficult times in medicine over the past 17 months, especially since my wife, Janell, had a bone marrow transplant in 2019 and was quite immunocompromised during the scariest times of the COVID pandemic,” Hagerman said. “I urge anyone reading this to take COVID seriously, get vaccinated, have your children vaccinated as soon as a vaccine is available to them, and appropriately mask and distance themselves.”
Hagerman also taught other medical students and residents as an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He has won two prestigious teaching awards through his work at the Medical College and Children’s Wisconsin.
His name was also often mentioned in the lists of top doctors in the
Greater area of Milwaukee.
Hagerman served for many years as a volunteer medical advisor for the Cedarburg School District. Discouraged by a new human growth and development program the district adopted in 2012, he joined a group of parents to provide an alternative program.
Nine years later, the Responsibly Educating Adolescents for Life program is still available as an option for seventh, eighth, and ninth graders, although Hagerman said it is reaching far too few students.
Parent Lyle Gray said he and his wife used a different pediatrician for their daughter, but it was the REAL HG&D that their family used for human growth and development education.
“Given the Cedarburg County District’s absurd policy of ‘Just-say-no’ sex education, Dr. Hagerman offered a realistic, common-sense option,” Gray said.
Hagerman said that working with children has given him energy and made the days fun. He has seen his patients grow up and have children of his own.
“It was a privilege to be the trusted advisor to thousands of families,” he said.